The provisional legislature yesterday approved $17 million in grants and $200 million in loans to fish farmers but criticised the funding as far from adequate. Marine experts said 5.85 million catties of fish worth $300 million had been lost during the red tide disaster, which affected 23 of the 26 fish culture zones. Legislators called for the amount available to each fish farmer in unsecured loans to be double the $100,000 on offer, and for an extension of the grace period - during which they would not have to make repayments - from 18 months to three years. They also asked that the maximum grant available to each fish farmer be raised from $11,250. Officials turned down the demands. 'We have been flexible in putting up the relief plans,' Secretary for Economic Services Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said. 'You know public money should be used prudently.' Mr Ip said they had played their part by cutting the loan interest rate from six to two per cent, and raising the normal limit of unsecured loans from $80,000 to $100,000. Director of Agriculture and Fisheries Lessie Wei Chui Kit-yee said the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Loan Fund behind the loans scheme had its own regulations and standards. 'We have to abide by the rules, or we would breach the normal practice,' she said. She promised to be flexible when counting fish farmers' collateral. Secured loans of up to $400,000 are available. 'We have been accepting boats which were not taken as collateral before,' she said. 'But I cannot say what is acceptable - I have no idea what sort of heirloom farmers would put before me.' David Chu Yu-lin of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance said he was disappointed by what he described as official inflexibility. 'It should be the system that serves us, rather than we serve the system,' he said. Federation of Hong Kong Aquaculture Associations chairman Wong Yung-kan was angry that the officials seemed unsympathetic to the industry's plight. 'They didn't consult us over the scale of the disaster, but kept asking us to accept their plan.' About 30 fish farmers protested against the relief plan before a special meeting of the Financial Committee yesterday. Mr Wong demanded a speedy clearance of the seabed so it could soon be restocked with fish fry.